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Poster: chris in long beach Date: Oct 16, 2011 2:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Hi gang,

mp3's seem to be a big no-no in the trading community. I've never tried FLAc because I have no stinking idea how to turn it into a listenable CD :)

But, for those who love FLAC, what makes it better? I mean, I KNOW it's supposed to sound better because it's less compressed, but what can you hear on FLAC that you can't hear on mp3?

Does it get tougher with higher bitrates? Like, how different is FLAC to a 320 mp3 vs a 128? Do you need to have a high end system to really hear the difference?

Would love to hear yer thoughts.

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Poster: rdenirojb87 Date: Oct 16, 2011 9:04am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

I've always noticed a difference, but I've had a ear for subtle differences in audio ever since I learned guitar. If I had unlimited storage space, I would never listen to mp3s. I don't though though, so I convert flacs to 320 kbps and they still sound very good. There is a richness to the sound in the flac that doesn't convert to mp3, but a 320 kpbs mp3 still has good quality usually. I also listen to the majority of my music through a nice sound system that adds a richness and clarity to recordings that are lacking. This makes my mp3s more than listenable. When they make HD's that hold about 10TB, maybe I'll switch to all flacs. I have too much music right now.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Oct 16, 2011 10:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Yes, but it never actually matters...mostly.

I think the source is what is critical. With us, accessing so many live shows, recorded in so many diff ways, the source/lineage ends up being the primary factor.

If one takes commercial releases, crisp and bright as can be, though you could tell the diff, in practice, you could almost listen to a cassette, MP3 or WAV, and not really feel you were missing much if anything.

What that boils down to for me is that if I take the 8-6-71 AUD, and recall when I listened to it as a bootleg LP, or a cassette of said, or later the AUD here in lossless, or even the final commercial release, I only ended up, duh, hearing a diff in the commercial release simply because the "source" was so dramatically diff from all prior.

In any case, for most DEAD applications, the source is the # 1 concern, and format is usu secondary, IMHO.

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Poster: rastamon Date: Oct 16, 2011 6:30am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

personally I can't hear the difference between VBRM3U and Flac to Wav except for a very slight gap between tracks, like less then 1/10 of a second. For trading and sharing, go with Lossless files - Shn. or Flac. You can convert those two very easily to Wav with this Application >>
http://tlh.easytree.org/ (Traders Little Helper)

Which you can burn to CD without any gap with this free Burner >> http://cdburnerxp.se/en/home that's worked very well for me. Of course you only get 80min of music on one CD but it's the best quality sound for those with better ears than I.

This post was modified by rastamon on 2011-10-16 13:30:29

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Poster: skuzzlebutt Date: Oct 17, 2011 7:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

In the serious trading community MP3s are indeed viewed as a big no no; they are viewed as a "pollution" of the source. However, I don't really trade, and my various playback systems are of average (at best) quality. So, I collect what works best for me. I actually prefer 320 kbps MP3s, primarily because of the excessive storage space demands of lossless files. I also find the difference in sound is almost negligible (again, this is in my own listening environment), certainly not enough to put up with the headaches that come with lossless. Occasionally I will burn a show for someone else, and when I do I mark the discs as being sourced from mp3s. My 2 cents.

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Poster: Germain Date: Oct 16, 2011 5:56am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Ones ability to discern a difference between flac & mp3 depends on their equipment,ears, listening environment and the rate of compression used to make the mp3. I listen to much of my music using Winamp through a decent pair of headphones and a decent soundcard in my computer. Total cost about $250. To my ears there is a significant improvement in sound quality listening to lossless files compared to high bitrate mp3. I have my computer hooked up to my home stereo and I get as good as sound as when I play a CD.

I primarily listen to VBR q0 mp3 in my car because I can load the player with a flash drive and not have to deal with changing CD's traveling at 70 mph in traffic. Even in that environment, I can definitely tell a difference. However, the biggest difference is that after a while the mp3s fatigue my ears at high volume where the lossless does not.

While high quality VBR mp3 sounds decent, especially compared to crap like CBR 128 mp3, sound quality is not the primary reason traders insist on trading only lossless files. Lossless files can be compressed & decompressed repeatedly with no loss in quality and the quality can be verified. Try that with mp3 and you end up with something worse than what you started with.

I don't make CD's much for myself, but it is really simple to use Trader's Little Helper to decode the flacs to wav files so that they can be burned to CD.

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Poster: chris in long beach Date: Oct 16, 2011 7:52am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

So is the biggest difference fatigue at loud volume? Hmm, maybe I'm looking for something that can't be put into words...I'm just curious about what exactly it is that people hear!

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Poster: Germain Date: Oct 16, 2011 10:05am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

A good way to visualize the difference between lossless and lossy files is to think of a high resolution photo in which small variations in color and shading are clear & crisp. Now print that photo on a printer that has a palate of say 256 colors. Your print will be good, but it will loose some of the sharpness of detail present in the photo.

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Poster: dark.starz Date: Oct 16, 2011 6:18pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Personally, i own a rather large collection of LPs, CDs, DVDs and Casette Tapes which are in boxes and storage.

One of these day's i'll need to begin the arduous process of transferring the cassettes to digital for several of the tapes are going on 40 years old now and i'll probably only get one good roll over the tape head of my Nak CR-7A before the oxide begins to fall apart.

That being said, if i'm going to transfer these recordings, several of which are first and second generation masters, i would insist on the highest resolution digital storage medium possible.

Therefore, it's a no-brainer to always store lossless. Multi terabyte dual raid hard drives are relatively inexpensive.

Look, one of the most knowledgeable audio gurus here at the forum is a man named Charlie Miller. Have you ever seen one of his recordings that was encoded in mp-3?


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Poster: bernlin2000 Date: Dec 16, 2012 8:53am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Not a very fair analogy, though: top-notched variable-bitrate MP3s will sound as good as any FLAC. It's more like the difference between viewing 8 megapixel images on your computer vs. 30 megapixel. You simply can't tell the difference in quality at that scale, and in this analogy you'd have to blow the picture up to monstrous proportions to have any hope of discerning a difference. FLACs are most useful for trading, because they ensure that the person who did the encoding didn't introduce flaws (somehow...bad encoder perhaps?), and also it removes the issue of "too many generations", since FLACs are essentially the same as CD Audio. For personal use though I don't see any justification for using FLACs over MP3s...you simply can't notice a different in quality over a 240 avg kbps MP3 vs a standard FLAC.

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Poster: BobsShortShorts Date: Oct 16, 2011 6:22am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

I am old and listen to 80% of my daily music fix with my ipod while working out.So to me its out of need to use mp3 thats what I use the most.But even these old ears can tell the diff on my home system using mp3 vs flac.So I have all my stuff stored in flac format then convert to VBR for my ipod....I sometimes can notice a difference between Constant Bit vs VBR....but hey I am anal when it comes to my music.

So yes I can pass a blind test....but if my allergies I kicking my butt,then no......(My ears plug up)

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Poster: chris in long beach Date: Oct 16, 2011 6:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

But what are you hearing that makes the difference? Vocals, guitar, drums, overall feel, what is it?

Just curious because I want to try to test my ears and see if I can pick up differences :)

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Poster: RBNW....new and improved! Date: Oct 16, 2011 10:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Cleaner crisper sound....almost like TV and HD-TV...

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Poster: WillCo Date: Oct 17, 2011 1:06pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

I remember similar discussions when "HiFi" playback (of FM radio and LPs particularly) became more affordable in the early '70s.

I read somewhere why it was so important to be able to play sound frequencies that the human ear was incabable of hearing; I can't remember the science except that mention of harmonics was the clincher: something about how the acoustics of a room and within an instrument react to vibrations - even those you cannot hear - by producing harmonics which shape the sounds that you can then hear.

I believe that stuff, even if I don't understand it, and agree with others about the muddiness of low bitrate mp3s. The higher bitrate ones sound fine to me, as good as lossless.

For me one of the more important factors is always how music was recorded in the first place. In a neighbouring thread there was a link to the jerryradio site where the PERRO sessions with Crosby, Garcia etc. were being made available. They were brilliantly recorded, and sound fantastic - even though the bitrate of the files is very low. At the other extreme, listen to some of the poorly recorded (in terms of recording conditions - acoustics, crowd noise etc.) audience recordings that are posted on the archive in lovingly-transferred 24bit flac. They can sound pretty bad, no matter what resources are available.

You said you couldn't figure out how to transfer flacs to CD. The Nero express software that came free with my PC does that for me very easily, totally transparently. It can't handle shorten SHN files, but I use Winamp to "write" shn files to the hard disk in wav format, and then burn the wav files to CD. A bit longwinded maybe, but it is very quick, and always works.

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Oct 16, 2011 7:57am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Generally speaking, the sound is richer , more three dimensional, the more "information" you are receiving . Mp3 is ok for its ease of use some shows I only have in mp3 ( sounds better than some of my old, dubbed from radio, 4+ generations , tapes did )but if you are sitting in-front of some speakers, a lossless format will sound better . And I don't think you have to be a "golden ears", or own a 10k Hi-Fi to hear this . BUT the ease of use may outweigh better sound, i.e., "it is good enough for me " .

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Poster: craven714 Date: Oct 16, 2011 8:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

The cymbals tell all.

Attachment: 220px-BillKreutzmann.jpg

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Poster: Skobud Date: Oct 16, 2011 8:30am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

I think this may help. Think of it as brightness or clarity. Most of the time if a board has static, humm, hiss, etc its gonna sound the same regardless of copy. The difference may be in the overall depth of the sound.

The only real measurable difference comes in the higher frequencies. Im talking > 16k. mp3 320 is absolutely equivalent in signal reproduction to flac insofar as what the human ear can even hear. When you start losing higher frequencies due to compression(lower vbr and cbr, or a bitrate < 192) the recording may start to sound hollow or like it has waay to much dolby on or something.

As far as my personal opinion, flac is great, but if you archive as much music as I have mp3 is the way to go. Just go with 320 bitrate and you will not hear a difference. People that tell you they do would have to know exactly what they are looking for(in other words understand how compression works) and most likely view it on a program like Soundforge or Cubase.

I think that most people that tell you there is an audible difference has no idea what they are talking about. They simply like the idea of the perfect digital copy. Thats just my opinion though.


EDIT: My post above looks snarky at the end and that is not how I meant it. You can hear the difference in a shitty low vbr recompressed copy vs flac. My point being is that circulating copies that most people listen to these days are already high enough in bitrate that you would not hear a real difference, regardless of system. You would have to graph it to see where the loss really is.

This post was modified by Skobud on 2011-10-16 15:30:31

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Poster: rastamon Date: Oct 16, 2011 8:06am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

give it a "Blindfold test" so you don't know beforehand which source you're listening to

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Poster: Deichbrand_1 Date: Oct 16, 2011 8:01am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

I write on music and from the experiences I had over the years in regard to various types of MP3s that had been offered to me, I can tell you that there is a huge difference between 128 and 320 kbps. It depends on the genre the music was taken from of course, but be it the drums, the guitars or even the overall impression, you cannot possibly mistake the low quality stuff.

The lower the quality, the muddier it tends to be.

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Poster: dark.starz Date: Oct 16, 2011 1:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Capturing 100% of all available information at the microphones or soundboard output to the tape head (or todays technology, the hard drive) is critical to lifelike musicality on playback. You can always process the signal, but cannot recover any loss of information from the source down the signal chain from storage technology to playback system. Therefore the source is paramount.

That being said, when you transfer a recording the potential for signal loss and degradation becomes exponential consistent with the number of transfers and the storage technology.

It's been common knowledge for years that higher digital bit and sampling rates yield greater transparency and resolution on playback of the original recording.

In terms of the level of audibility and improved musicality when comparing mp-3 to lossless a linear playback system now becomes paramount in terms of the amount of increased resolution.

I-pods and PC speakers are mostly noise, the cheap little internal amplifiers, speaker elements and the seriously degraded digital to analog converters driven from the headphone output seriously compromise the music.

Now, if you want to up the performance a bit, take the USB output of your PC or from an I-pod docking station and feed the signal to a dedicated outboard digital to analog converter. The improvement in musical resolution and transparency is significant.

You now have the option of using either a dedicated high-quality headphone amplifier and headphones, high-quality desktop active speakers or most preferably, a high-end music system.

The better the source and the better the playback system the closer to the music you'll arrive. I’d sell my car in a heartbeat if it was practical and necessary to afford any number of high-end music system solutions. Great enjoyment, low maintenance, and it terms of the high-end analog playback equipment, a much longer life cycle when compared to the continual industry storage technology obsolescence, if you catch the drift!

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Poster: Skobud Date: Oct 17, 2011 5:23am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Can you tell the difference between FLAC and mp3 on a blind test?

Nonsense. 100% cut and paste. Its obvious you have no idea what you are talking about.